New Bill on Guardianship Allows Parents to Delegate Care

Issues regarding child custody, whether permanent or temporary, commonly involve a lot of emotion and dispute. The strife associated with these decisions is even higher if parents find themselves unable to care for their child and need to find someone else to take on that responsibility. There are host of circumstances that could necessitate the temporary transfer of custody of a child to someone other than a parent. While there are procedures in place right now that permit courts to give custody to family members or designate guardians to care for a child, these mechanisms are only available after need for temporary custody already exists and gives parents little opportunity to influence the person chosen.

A recent news story out of Miami describes five siblings who ran away from a group home over fears they would be separated. The children previously lived with their grandmother, but she gave up custody, leaving the children with no guardian. A bill recently filed by Representative Ray Rodrigues could remedy this situation by allowing parents or legal guardians to create powers of attorney for the temporary care of a child. A discussion of the bill’s provision will appear below.

Power of Attorney for Temporary Care of Minor Children

The purpose of this bill is to create a mechanism for partially incapacitated parents to participate in decisions affecting their child as much as possible and to provide an alternative to placing the child in state custody while the parent is unable to care for a child. Consequently, this bill creates a new provision for the guardianship of minor children by permitting parents to execute powers of attorney to delegate the care and custody of the child to an agent chosen by a qualified non-profit association. The power of attorney is effective for one year and must be renewed annually if the parent wants to extend placement with an agent. The parent may revoke this delegation at any time, and the child must be returned to the parent’s custody when practicable. The power of attorney grants the agent decision power over all aspects of the child’s life except the authority to consent to marriage or adoption of the child, allow an abortion or terminate parental rights. Any existing rights or obligations established by court order in relation to the child remain in effect. So, for example, if the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support or is granted visitation rights, both would still be in effect during this period.

An agent caring for child under this provision would not be entitled to payment or considered a foster care facility. Further, executing this power of attorney would not viewed as abandonment, abuse or neglect unless the parent failed to retrieve the child after the one-year period or failed to execute a new power of attorney.

Qualified Non-Profit Organization

This type of organization will be a charity or religious-based entity, and is tasked with finding an appropriate place for the child to live during the one year period and providing assistance with supporting the child to parents and agents. This entity is not a child placement agency under the proposed bill and is required to perform criminal history and child abuse backgrounds checks on all volunteers, employees, agents and members of the agent’s family over the age of 12. Additionally, the organization must notify the Department of Child and Families about the placement of a child under the authorization of a power of attorney to ensure the Department is not currently investigating the parent for abuse or neglect or providing services to the parent. If the Department does have an open investigation, it must approve the power of attorney before the child can be placed with an agent.

Find an Attorney

Making decisions about the care and custody of your child is difficult, and it is important to fully understand what a transfer of custody means looking into the future. The attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman, in Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach, offer representation on many child custody issues and are available to meet with you to discuss your needs. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.